Biometrics finds its voice

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Improvements in voice analytics technology have opened up the possibility of highly reliable remote identity verification, enabling organisations to monitor potential fraudsters while removing the need for individuals to memorise multiple personal identification numbers and/or passwords.

There are already a number of applications where voice biometrics has seen some take-up, particularly in the call centre environment. However, Ovum's 2009 report on the future of voice biometrics in the enterprise market found that the technology has not yet been widely deployed, despite the ability of vendors to create robust solutions. Various factors account for this, including the major upheaval in the financial services sector - one of the other major target industries for voice biometrics vendors.

Call centres are another key market. Demand for voice verification technology in this environment comes from the need to control financial loss through credit card and debit card fraud. Integration with speech technology allows for enhanced security by applying two-factor authentication, for example 'something you are' and 'something you know'. Another industry that is likely to benefit from the technology is gaming, predicts Frost & Sullivan research analyst Neelima Sagar, who refers to two-factor identification as an emerging technology trend.

Once customers start to use voice biometrics to access services such as banking and insurance, they will quickly expect the same level of security from their other service providers. However, the technology has potential value in other applications, for example passive identification of callers. This could be used to support fraud hot-spotting, with biometrics identifying the voice prints of users who have already demonstrated a propensity towards fraud and immediately advising agents that the caller may not be who they say they are.

Voice biometric systems verify the individual's identity by comparing the live voice to digitally stored voice samples. Some users will inevitably be concerned that their voice could be recorded and used fraudulently, but there are a number of voice biometric engines that can detect a voice recording playback attempt. Individuals can take additional steps to further reduce the likelihood of identity theft by including a degree of voice inclination when recording their 'voice print'.

According to Opus Research, voice biometrics technologies are finding their way into a growing set of vertical industries and horizontal use cases and the challenges ahead for voice biometric-based solutions providers primarily involve packaging, partnerships and promotions.

The challenge for enterprises is managing the trade off between having the highest level of security and having the best customer experience, but even with modest rejection rates they have an opportunity to make remote access much more secure.

Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.